Afghan victim of domestic violence fights for asylum

‘I got so used to it that I forgot that it hurts; that it’s not normal’

Ruchi Kumar
The Lily
6 min readSep 19, 2017



“Before I was married, I couldn’t have imagined I was capable of tolerating as much abuse as I did,” shared Batul Moradi, 36.

Moradi is a writer and a survivor of domestic abuse who struggled for years to escape an abusive marriage in Afghanistan.

“It’s so strange how common it is in this society, that it has become normal. I got so used to it that I forgot that it hurts; that it’s not normal,” she recalled.

In a deeply conservative society like Afghanistan, stories of women caught in domestic abuse are far too many, and considered, even by those affected, as a way of life. As abhorred the idea of divorce is by men and women, abuse is rarely an acceptable as grounds for separation, even within a legal structure. Moradi realized this first hand.

She was born and raised as an Afghan refugee in Iran. Her family had fled the Soviet invasion in the late ’70s. It would be over two decades before she set foot in her country. Educated and with larger than life aspirations, Moradi returned to Kabul in 2003, two years after the fall of the Taliban regime.

“I started work at publication called Seda-e-Mardom (People’s Voice) where I first met my future husband; he was a well-known writer, popular in Afghan elite circles,” she recalled. Enamoured by his charms, intellect and drive, Moradi agreed to marry him the same year.

It wasn’t long after the wedding that things began to change.

“It started with small things at first; my husband would read my diary, my writings; he wanted to know who I met with,” Moradi recalled. She says she initially found his jealousy endearing. “I thought that he behaved protective since he was in love with me.” But then the restrictions came. “He wouldn’t allow me to meet my friends; even my emails were monitored,” Moradi said. The pattern of control eventually turned brutish.

Having been raised in a loving homes and as a woman aware of her rights, Moradi realised soon enough that she needed to get out of the union. She first went to court when her first child was just two months old.

What Moradi did not expect was a legal ordeal that would leave more defenseless and vulnerable.

“The female judge who administered our case looked at my appeal and spoke to my husband, who told her that he didn’t want the divorce. So she denied it, and I was told that I can’t leave the marriage till my husband permits it,” Moradi said, a hint of residual anguish still evident in her voice. “She [the judge] asked me, ‘he is not an alcoholic, he says he doesn’t beat you, he doesn’t even look like the beating type. He is obviously educated and kind. Why would you want a divorce?’”

For Moradi, returning to her husband not only meant more abuse, but also a complete breakdown of her own personality. “After the court’s refusal, he got more bold. He would call me names; he would tear and delete my writings. Then he started to leave for months at a stretch,” she said. “I knew he had another house, but there was nothing I could do.”

In the end, it was a helpful intervention from the Afghan ambassador in Seoul, South Korea, where Moradi’s husband was stationed, that saved her. “During one of my husband’s long excursions away from home, I approached the ambassador to convince my husband to grant me the divorce. I came to Iran with my children while the ambassador persuaded him to sign the divorce papers,” she told The Lily.

“That moment, I felt like I had woken from the dead.”

While the divorce liberated Moradi, her struggles were far from over. The patriarchy within the Afghan society seldom allows women the dignity and freedom to pursue a healthy life after a divorce. To begin with, women in the Afghan society are not recognized without their association to a male “chaperone.”

“In Afghanistan, everything I do has to be controlled by a man. Even if I get killed, my blood money is half of a man’s, my inheritance is half of a man’s,” she added with frustration.

Not only did Moradi no longer have a “male guardian,” but her husband disowned their two sons. “He was extremely influential and well known in many circles; he told people that he left me because I cheated on him,” said Batul, who had to carry the burden of proving her innocence.

Accusation of adultery in the Afghan society and the legal structure is more detrimental for a woman than a man. A woman accused of such a crime could face up to 15 years in prison. In fact, a recent draft of the new penal code has attempted to bring back stoning as a punishment for moral crimes, including adultery and was strongly opposed by human rights groups.

“I had to fight for the rights of my children, their identity and dignity,” Moradi said. It is pertinent in Afghan society for children to have their father’s identity, for even basic documents such as the National ID card and passport.

Moradi set out on a difficult journey for justice in a complex labyrinth of the Afghan judicial systems that remains unfavorable to women, even 16 years after the fall of the extremist Taliban regime. Accusations of adultery towards women are rather common in Afghanistan, as evident by the number of women in the Afghan jails serving time, often along with their children, on convictions of moral crimes.

Moradi, however, decided to follow a different path, one that hadn’t yet been undertaken by a woman before in Afghanistan, by demanding a DNA test. No hospital in Afghanistan had the provisions to conduct such a test. She was tried to get a U.S. military hospital on a NATO base to help her.

In that period, her case files were “lost” twice by the Afghan courts. “There were attorney generals who would mock me; they would call me shameless for pursuing this case,” she said.

Finally, in 2012, her request was granted by the U.S. Army; it was another year before she could get the court to compel her ex-husband to take the test.

“In 2013, the court ruled in my favor and he was sentenced to two years in the prison,” she shared triumphantly. Moradi’s case saw the first ever use of DNA technology, making it a historical milestone for Afghan justice system. She is quick to point out the discrepancies still exist. If a woman had been proven guilty of adultery, she would have faced 15 years in prison.

“This is a story of my rights, a woman’s rights, but everyone treated it as a story of shame and honor,” she said, referring to the constant vilification and discouragement she faced throughout the ordeal. Moradi documented her ordeal in a recently published book called “Qadhaf,” which translates to slander.

Ultimately, her husband never did serve the two years awarded to him for his crimes.

“He escaped Afghanistan; last I heard he was in Canada. I requested Interpol to act on it, since my family and I continue to receive threats,” she said, adding that her sister was attacked in an alley by her house, the same year her parents house was raided by unknown assailants, who she believes are connected to her ex-husband.

“I fear for our lives,” she admitted, keeping a brave demeanour. Moradi currently seeking asylum to help find security for her children and herself. However, her first application was rejected in May 2017.

She is determined to find a safe and healthy environment for her children, who she has sheltered so far from her legal and social battles.

“They don’t know everything and I intend to keep it that way until they are a little older. I do not want them to grow with hate or anger in their hearts towards anyone, even their father,” she said.



Ruchi Kumar
The Lily

Writer. Journalist. Humanist. Based in #Afghanistan. Words @ForeignPolicy @Guardian @AJEnglish @WashingtonPost @Vice Earlier: Web producer @dna @TimesofIndia